There are three wide receivers among the 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame’s Class of 2018 … only nobody’s talking about all three. They’re talking about two — Randy Moss and Terrell Owens.
So that begs the question: With all the noise about Moss and Owens, where does Isaac Bruce, fit in?
“Well, certainly right there with them,” said Hall-of-Fame GM Bill Polian on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast.
He’s right about that. When Bruce retired following the 2009 season, he was second only to Jerry Rice in career receiving yards, the second ever to reach 15,000 yards, fifth in career catches and ninth in career receiving touchdowns.
In short, he was one of the most productive wide receivers in the history of the NFL.
But so were Owens and Moss, who rank in the top four in career receiving yards and touchdowns. Plus, both were named to an all-decade team. Bruce was not. But, unlike Owens and Moss, Bruce won a Super Bowl. In fact, he not only was on the winning team in Super Bowl XXXIV … he literally WON it, scoring the Rams’ go-ahead touchdown on a 73-yard catch with just under two minutes left.
Yet Bruce is given little or no hope of reaching Canton before Moss or Owens … even though he has the qualifications and, unlike the others, wasn’t a distraction. In fact, he was a team MVP with the Rams (where there were three other Hall-of-Famers — quarterback Kurt Warner, running back Marshall Faulk and tackle Orlando Pace) and a team MVP with the 49ers, both of which he acknowledged when making a powerful Hall-of-Fame case for himself last month on the Talk of Fame Network (http://www.talkoffamenetwork.com/spirt-excellence-qualifies-isaac-bruce-hall/).
So let’s try this once more: Where does Isaac Bruce fit in with Moss and Owens?
“Here’s what I use as criteria,” said Polian. “First of all, do you have to game-plan for them? And the answer with all three is … yes. Then you go from there. What kind of production did they have? In all three cases it’s superior production, and it ranks right up there with the best of all time. So that qualifies all three.
“And then you look and say, ‘OK, let’s go back down on the field now and see what this guy contributed to the teams with whom he played.’ And when you talk about Isaac Bruce, you talk about a guy who could do everything. In the case of Moss, you’re talking about a guy who did less things … but the things that he did he probably did as good or better than anybody who played.
“And then you’re talking about the other guy (Owens), and there are issues in the locker room and within the context of the team that you can’t hide from. So I think you have to be honest about that, and then make your decision accordingly.”
But, Polian was told, no matter how much trouble Owens might have caused, there was an abundance of productivity you couldn’t help but like.
“It’s not a question of like,” said Polian. “It’s a question of: What did he contribute to the team. Was he a positive influence, or was he a negative influence? That is a decision everyone has to make for themselves. But I think it’s an appropriate question to ask.”